Remember when clouds were just floating weather objects in the sky? It was not too long ago that this was the only thing people thought of when the word was mentioned; now it is a completely different story. Today everything is now in the cloud! Our information is floating on a cloud somewhere as we speak, but is it safe? Is it safer to have your information stored in the cloud or locally? To put it more simply: what are the pros and cons of cloud authentication?
Security is always a concern, especially with the vast number of security breaches that have overtaken the news in recent months. With these developments, asking the question of whether or not cloud authentication is safer than using a locally hosted server is not only a smart question, it is a necessary one.
Why do you think Cloud Authentication is so popular?
Working in authentication, a lot of these questions come my way. Between talking to customers or prospects, I’m rarely taken aback by something like this. When a colleague asked me about cloud authentication, I almost responded without a second thought – cloud authentication is popular because it is convenient, and takes a lot of the pressure off the shoulders of IT administrators. But then I really started to wonder myself: why in the world is cloud authentication such a hot topic right now?
The next thing that hit me was the realization that there is so much more that should be considered before deciding whether or not a move to cloud authentication is the best choice for a given environment. In that light, here are some pros and cons of cloud authentication and Cloud SaaS.
The Pros & Cons
It doesn’t matter what business you are in – Return on Investment (RoI) is a major concern for everyone. With the move to cloud authentication, cost considerations are expanding so much that there are various newer considerations to be made. Derrick Wlodarz posted a truly great article, which illustrates some of the hidden costs that people always forget about. Check it out for a detailed analysis of determining the true cost of on premise vs cloud authentication solution. Some highlights are below.
Not having to maintain the hardware is certainly a big draw when it comes to considering a cloud solution. This makes it very attractive, since it eliminates any costs associated with hardware in your physical environment. That means no more worrying about electricity costs associated with running those extra servers, and no need to upgrade or replace those servers when they become outdated.
If cloud authentication becomes your new solution, gone are the days where you have to support and manage any servers on your own environment – the vendor takes care of that on their end.
This convenience does come at a price though. Cloud authentication solutions typically cost more than their on-premise counterpart due to the heavy lifting that is being handled by the service provider. You have to look at the big picture and determine which solution is better in the long run!
Of course, you also have to consider the risks of outages with cloud authentication. It’s a known fact that with cloud authentication and cloud services – there is always the chance of an outage. Take a look at this photographic collaboration of the Seven Worst Cloud Outages of 2015. There is always a risk of power outages with on premise solutions as well, but backup systems and generators are much simpler to manage when it is done in house, as opposed to being handled somewhere else.
Compare the risks here with the risks of your on premise servers going down and make sure the cost is worth the risk for your environment.
For many years, things were not considered secure unless they were sitting behind a firewall in your server room, however with advancements in security practices this is no longer a concern for many organizations considering this form of authentication solution.
Identity management is a huge factor of cloud authentication. Part of the cloud authentication Software as a Service (SaaS) model is securely managing identity across various applications and services. Implementing a cloud portal provides more adequate access to various systems that are already moved to the cloud, but what else is there to consider?
Cloud authentication provides a simple opportunity to conveniently corral your various credentials and logins to one single strong identity through Single Sign-on (SSO). Instead of providing multiple weaker credentials, cloud authentication makes it simple to strengthen any password policy while making access much more secure and convenient for your end users.
Additionally, cloud authentication allows for the simple implementation of a two factor authentication solution. InfoWorld notes that the best way to remain secure in the Cloud is to Go Multifactor. Cloud authentication provides easy access to two factor authentication methods without any added hassle. It’s almost second nature.
The flipside of cloud authentication security and identity management is the single point of entry and the necessity of using two factor authentication alongside a traditional login. Without proper upkeep and strengthening of the single identity, cloud authentication could potentially provide a weaker front door than you intend. While not hosted on premise, you need to be certain that your password policy and login protocols are up to date and as strong as can be.
Additionally, while not necessarily a bad idea, you may not wish to make use of two factor authentication with your solution, and cloud authentication practically demands it in this day and age. The move is a strong suggestion, as it truly increases the security of your information on the web, but if your end users or your team are hesitant about adopting a second factor, the move to cloud authentication could be that much more difficult to undergo.
Shift in Perspective
I would argue that there is more to the shift towards cloud authentication than cost and security benefits. It is something that we can all relate to, in one way or another. Simply put:
The cloud is cool.
It is a buzzword really. When talking to an IT professional, saying that your information is stored in the cloud sounds cool and shows that you are up on the latest technology. Beyond this the age of the
Of course, that brings us to another point that the move towards cloud authentication illustrates: the world of the IT professional is changing.
As time goes on, the new IT professional is an individual that has had access to the Internet their whole life. It only seems natural to have things hosted somewhere else. These IT folk grew up in a time where they used Hotmail, Gmail and other web mail clients as their source for email, and iTunes, Pandora, and DropBox for music and file storage. The cloud has been slowly creeping into the lives of the modern IT professional for years.
Things are changing; for the better or for the worse is up to you to decide for yourself. Choosing the right authentication solution is an involved process, and it could very well be the case that the cloud authentication solution is the answer to all of your IT problems. One way or the other, you can be the IT warrior and lead your end users into the new age with strong, secure on premises or cloud authentication. The choice is yours – choose wisely.